Earth Sensing for Situational Awareness

Hashtags: #earth, #earthsensing, #earthobserviz, #earthrightnow, #aircheck, #earthlive

Tags: data visualization, imagery, model, platform


Combined Earth observations can inform travelers of upcoming delays and hazards; inform environmental and space scientists of improved collection methods for remote sensing; support research scientists in understanding correlations of various Earth events; allow communities to understand air quality assessments and how it has affected their communities over time; help aid organizations in understanding historical, current, and future implications of geological events, such as landslides, floods, droughts, and storms; and many more potential uses.

NASA has a variety of Earth observations that are publically available that can allow for enhancing existing weather or mapping applications.  Additionally, NASA provides a large amount of Earth observation data in near real-time, for example, temperature, precipitation, clouds, ozone, Sulphur dioxide, snow cover, and wildfires.  Other sites provide real-time aircraft and satellite tracking.  Combining this information can put data into context to allow scientists, travelers, students, pilots, and communities to better understand previous events, current situational assessments, and planning for potential hazards.  



This challenge is an agglomeration of previous challenges, wrapped up into a one-stop-shop of Earth observation information to assist in understanding previous events, current situational assessments, and planning for potential hazards.  The app’s main users could be space scientists, Earth scientists, travelers, air traffic specialists, pilots, and students.


This challenge consists of three parts:

  • Combine Earth observations into a 3D globe with the possibility to display that information on a 2D map inset. Observations may include imagery, wind, pressure, wave height, thermal, UV levels, cloud information (height, type, etc.), relative humidity, air quality index (AQI), volcanic plumes, dust storms, dust clouds, fires, landslides, floods, droughts, terrain change, gravity fields, significant storms or other Earth observation data on a 3D globe right in your web browser or application. Information can be from NASA, NOAA, crowd-sourced information, weather stations, or any other sources.

  • Combine live flight information, so travelers, pilots, air traffic personnel can see in real-time potential hazards affecting air travel.

  • Combine live satellite orbiting information, so users can see when the last satellite pass has observed a specific area and when it may potentially observe again. This can include multiple orbit regimes, such as LEO and GEO.



  • HINT: Many open-source tools are out there to support this effort, including past NASA Space App Challenges.

  • Earth Observation Data:

    • The app should allow users to: input the coordinates or use user geo-located coordinates on Earth to extract local data values onto a 3D terrain map; retrieve Earth observation data in near real-time; visualize Earth observation data globally and locally (e.g. zoom); include historical observations for the users to see past significant events, include location max, min, and average values of conditions; and provide an interactive globe or map with data visualization layers.

    • Auto-identify countries, cities, states, rivers, and other features in the map.

    • Include observations not just at ground or top of the atmosphere, but at all aspects of the atmosphere.

    • If travelers do not have access to internet, allow the app to be downloaded and used off-line. Once the user is back on-line, the user may help improve the app information by uploading information observed to a database. This might include the location, time the data were collected, descriptions, and other metadata.  When the user has network access, the app could allow the user to interact with the existing map user interface to select imagery that can be downloaded and cached for offline use; provide map information within a certain spatial extent; and/or let people gather and record data that can be uploaded to a database afterwards, ideally as a layer on the map.

    • Option to include prediction-modeling overlay, such as where the storms will track, air pollution warnings, etc.  

  • Aircraft Data:

    • Show all aircraft flights with visualized flight information (altitude, speed, etc.)

    • Provide baseball card style statistics on individual flight information

    • Using the locator on the mobile device and various airport locations, the app should convey the expected weather conditions to the nearest possible time of departure. Based on flight safety rules, the app should predict whether the flight will take off on time or be delayed.

  • Satellite Data:

    • Show the trajectory of satellites in real time and allow for historical track display

    • Show aggregate and individual satellite tracks and data

    • Provide baseball card style statistics on individual satellites linking it to their data



Resource Type




NASA Codes for Various Projects

Various codes that may be helpful in the project

NASA Earth Data in Google Maps

Uses Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS)


NASA Earth Data Resources, Formats, and Tools


The data format is not always the same across all NASA Earth data products, though HDF is one of the more common formats.  Second link has a list of tools available.

NASA Processed Data Information

If you’re trying to insert data values into a database, we suggest starting with Level 3 data products as they are usually gridded and available globally.

Google Earth Maps

Mobile device GPS locator

USGS 3D Maps



Check out ArcGIS Online.

Maps from Balloon and Kite Photography 


Earth Observation Resources

NASA World View 


NASA Visible Earth


NASA Earth Observations

Precipitation, landslides, elevation data, gravity, natural disaster tracker, sea, ice,



ESA Observation Data

Includes a variety of observations, including gravity, magnetic fields


MODIS and MISR for fires and pollution outbreaks; Models – HYSPLIT for trajectory predictions, GEOS-Chem (Stratospheric intrusions), NRL-NAAPS, SmartFire Secondary Data; and CALIPSO, OMI for vertical resolution and volcanic eruptions.

NCAR Hysplit

HYbrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory


3-D chemical transport algorithm


Navy Aerosol Analysis and Prediction System

EPA Toxics Release Inventory


Plant Observations



Data access, National Data Buoy Center

Bird Observations 


Various (bird, bugs, animals, etc.) Observations


Blue Sky Air Quality


Earth Wind Speeds


SERVIR Products


Open Weather Map

Various maps with APIs

Canadian Weather Forecasts


European Weather Forecasts


Japan Weather Forecasts


Aviation/Aircraft Resources

Aviation Weather Data



Airport status and delay information; FAA web-based weather services

NOAA Aviation Weather Center


Article on Weather Effects on Aviation




Live/Historical Aviation Tracking


Satellite Resources

Satellite Tracking


Tracking Information

Two-line Element: a data format used to convey sets of orbital elements that describe the orbits of Earth-orbiting satellites. A computer program called a model can use the TLE to compute the position of a satellite at a particular time.


Toni Eberhart